World Party – Live at Variety Playhouse

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I came to this concert with a moderate curiosity.  It began with The Waterboys, who have become a favorite over the years, and World Party’s leader, Kurt Wallinger, left that band early in its career.  In 2011, Wallinger released a collection of assorted unreleased material, marquee5 discs long, that caught and held my ear.   He tours rarely, but scheduled a stop at my favorite venue, and... it’s not that expensive.  And it was a Friday night, which was the final tumbler finding its place.

The opener, on solo acoustic guitar, was Gabriel Kelley.  He has a fine baritone voice, and a powerful one when he lets it loose.  Accompanying himself with harmonica and a foot cymbal, he played a handful of well structured and well received songs, and VP’s sterling audio and respectful audience gave his voice plenty of space.  That said, there’s a downer feel in both his music and lyrics, and it’s hard to imagine listening to his songs outside of a live venue.   Still, it was an enjoyable performance, and he has a humorous and gracious banter between songs.  I’d like to hear Fleet Foxes rounded out with his bottom end.  A highlight was a cover of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”

World Party took the stage with perhaps over 300 people attending.  They’ve had some commercial success, but 5 albums over 30 years doesn’t generate legions of fans.  Taking the stage, they were very appreciative of a standing audience, their first on the tour which led to a lot of interaction from all three members with the crowd.   As it goes with some other concerts I’ve been to, I (and particularly my son) were far less familiar with their work than others in the crowd. 


In that context, “Waiting Such a Long Time” made sense as a first song, as it had apparently been 5 or more years since the band played in Atlanta.  From the first song, it was obvious that Wallinger was either struck by the Georgia heat or recovering from an illness.  He joked throughout the evening, for those close enough to hear, as he toweled himself dry between songs (“This is ridiculous.  I just drank this water.”)


Nevertheless, it didn’t keep him from giving his all for every song.   Wallinger was accompanied by David Duffy on violin and Tristan Powell on electric guitar, both notably capable of providing suitable harmonies for Wallinger.  I would definitely have preferred a drummer and bassist, but when you consider the cost of touring and the efficiency of a trio (and possibly Kelley) in their sprinter van, it makes sense.


Duffy’s violin and mandolin added a lot of warmth to the songs, and Powell added classic pop rock guitar embellishments throughout the evening, though the highlight was his solo work on the closer, “Is It Too Late?”.


Two things about the picture below.  I like it because it captures the essence of Wallinger’s pleasure in performing and engaging with his audience.  I’d suspect that he’s a really nice guy off the stage as well. 

Also, he plays a right handed guitar fully upside down including string sequence, and for those inclined, it’s enjoyable just watching reverse fingering and strumming patterns.

As an aside, to his credit, he chose The Porter Beer Bar for his dinner.  Those in the know will admit to his wisdom of the local options.


Below, Duffy plays an Irish jig of sorts while Wallinger changed from a wet shirt to another soon to be wet.  It made the most of an already humorous moment.


Wallinger played several songs on keyboards, as well as a backup when he broke a guitar string on the encore’s finale.


Given his possible illness, Wallinger was in surprisingly good voice, reaching for and hitting the high notes where expected.  His songs largely are well arranged and intelligent “pop” songs, in a 70’s sense rather than today’s drivel.  Particularly for those close to the stage who could hear his off the cuff remarks, it was a particularly intimate performance and one with which his more devoted fans would certainly be well pleased.   Favorites, to my less initiated ears, were “Is It Like Today?”, “She’s the One,” “Ship of Fools,” and “Is It Too Late?”. 

3 of 5 STARS




Waiting Such a Long Long Time
Put the Message in the Box
Is It Like Today?
Everybody’s Falling in Love
When the Rainbow Comes
She’s the One
Love Street
What is Love All About?
God on My Side
Call Me Up
> Irish Jig by David Duffy whilst Wallinger changed shirts
Sweet  Soul Dream
Vanity Fair
Who Are You?
Ship of Fools
Is It Too Late?


Mystery Girl
Way Down Now

The audience noise is distracting, but Kelley’s voice resonates better live than on his studio recordings. 

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